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Editorials: Secret drainage talks

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The Dickinson County Board of Supervisors got an earful recently during a public meeting about how to control drainage of the Iowa Great Lakes and the Little Sioux River. Flooding hurts tourism, and business interests wanted to let loose the swollen lakes into the river and into Spencer, Sioux Rapids and Cherokee, among others, by breaching a road.

Downstream voices pointed out how stupid and damaging the plan would be, which caused the supervisors to hold their next meeting behind closed doors with select friends. The supervisors created an ad hoc committee to investigate flood mitigation. Representatives from Buena Vista, Cherokee and Clay counties were admitted with some belated uncertainty. They included BV County Supervisor Kelly Snyder and Cherokee Economic Development Director Bill Anderson, who also recently was appointed to the Iowa Transportation Commission by Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The public was excluded from the supervisors’ committee meeting, including representatives of this newspaper and the Okoboji Protective Association. That makes the meeting illegal under Iowa law. Those who throw in with a process under an illegal shroud could be viewed as complicit in a secret design to control drainage in Northwest Iowa. We can appreciate that their involvement seeks to give downstream counties a seat at the table to advocate for the excluded public, but it is all presumptuous and arrogant.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources is in charge of lakes, not any county engineer.

At the uncomfortable public meeting earlier, only one person (Larry Weber of the Iowa Flood Center) briefly brought up the typhoon in the room: climate change. Warmer weather with more extreme rains has led to a great expansion of drainage capacity on land that God painted in marsh all the way north of Lakeville, Minn. Man took care of most of the marsh and directed the excess to Sprit Lake, the Okobojis and eventually the Little Sioux River. The system cannot handle such regular, extreme events. We wonder if they talked in that closed meeting about plugging up those drainage tiles at the state line. Farmers may be interested.

Those marshes were carbon sinks. Their elimination contributes to a warming climate. The land now grows corn to make ethanol, for which we must lay pipeline to ship the CO2 to a burial site someplace else. We grow so much corn that if we don’t burn it we suppose we will go broke.

So no, we will not lose any tillable acres. Who will buy them out of production? Which makes us wonder what the alternatives discussed were. How does Iowa solve its surface water pollution, perhaps the worst in America, and how do you rationalize Spencer being under water? The people on top of the hill have a different perspective than those below. We have no idea if the downstream interests are represented or co-opted in those cozy meetings among friends of Gov. Reynolds. We fear we are about to find out.

 

In search of a drink

Water everywhere and not a drop to waste. Storm Lake imposed water conservation measures as the municipal system is strained by demand. Our water situation is a matter of utmost urgency, a $100 million problem with huge implications for the economy and the security of our national food supply.

The city is jacking up water rates on people who shower after work, well beyond the inflation rate. So of course city hall comes up with yet another downtown master plan, the latest in a series dating back to at least 1973, that nobody asked for. State officials have been called in to tell us what to do and how to do it, because Lake Avenue businesses could not know what their customers want.

We like Lake Avenue. We do not like downtown storm sewers that do not stand against even an inch of rain. We like our metal building with super-low energy costs. We do not like special assessments on downtown property owners for a scheme devised by planners from someplace else.

Storm Lake has big issues that demand full and acute attention. This downtown master plan is a distraction. It is not called for. There is no big grant at the end of this rainbow. When you don’t know how to recover $5 million in missing tax revenue from the county, you can always sue, hope for the best and dust off the trusty downtown master plan. We should first figure out how to keep the tap running without strapping the working stiff or downtown will be pointless. Our crumbling residential streets are an embarrassment and we are trying to figure out how to convert Lake Avenue from four lanes to three.

Editorials, Art Cullen

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